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Why Is Sex in Marriage Such a Big Deal?

5 reasons we need to pay attention to the trends

According to Jake Heppner of, most of us spend very little time having sex relative to everything else in life that we do. He found that over a lifetime, the average American will sleep the equivalent of 25 years, work the equivalent of over 10 years and have sex an equivalent of a mere 48 days!

Sex is basically a blink in the big picture of relationships.

So why, if we don’t “do it” much, do we care so much about it?

1. Intimacy & vulnerability.

In order to be intimate with our significant other and connect sexually, we have to be willing to be our most vulnerable physically and emotionally. We let go of everything from the clothes on our backs to the defenses we use to get through the day. Close, comfortable and private are some of the words the dictionary uses to describe intimacy.

Generally, if we don’t feel safe with someone, we won’t share true intimacy with him or her. Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, describes it this way, “[Sexual intimacy] reaches the deepest places inside us, and involves disclosing aspects of ourselves that are invariably bound up with shame and guilt…we risk humiliation and rejection, which are equally devastating.”

In my divorce work, I’ve seen hundreds of people who are normally quite high- functioning become incapacitated for years after being left—especially when they didn’t see it coming. Being jilted hurts us at our core. That’s why it can be traumatizing to be rejected or betrayed by a lover.

2. Fantasy & mood altering.

Experts have debunked the urban myth that men think about sex every 7 seconds and, although no one knows the exact amount men and women have sex on the brain, one study reported that the number is closer to 34 times a day for men and 18 times a day for women.

Sexual fantasy is a form of escape, as is fantasizing about winning the lottery. And since our brains don’t know the difference between something real and something imagined, people can get turned on just by thinking about sex. This certainly expands the role of sex in our lives. It’s not just about the physical act. There’s a mental aspect as well.

3. Affairs & cheating.

People don’t usually report when they are cheating so getting an accurate picture of exactly how many people find sex outside the marriage is a tall order. Estimates range anywhere from 30% to 70% of all couples. The “Life is short, have an affair,” site,, suffered a data breach in July of 2015 exposing nearly 37 million users. Cheating is clearly common practice and it begs the question of whether we are indeed monogamous by nature.

If there’s more sex going on outside the marriage or committed relationship, then clearly, sex plays a bigger role in our lives than is being reported.

4. Pornography & sexcapades.

Porn is an $11 billion dollar a year industry. Thanks to the internet, the use of porn has gone up dramatically since the ‘70s. Not only is porn more accessible, it feels more anonymous because people can view it in the privacy of their own home.

To some, porn is cheating; to others, it’s no big deal. Which is it?

Like most things, the answer has more to do with how much and in what contexts the porn consumption is taking place. Given the mood-altering capacity of porn, if used enough, it can develop into an addiction.

Another concern are the numbers of younger people who are accessing these sites. If there’s no sex education in schools (or from parents) there’s certainly a risk that these X-rated and sometimes abusive sites (i.e. when rape and sodomy are portrayed as normal or even a “man’s right”) may be perpetuating some unhealthy messages about sex and sexuality.

There’s also the danger that those who aren’t emotionally able to handle being exposed to sex will become “hypersexual.”

Then there are the strip clubs, escort services, prostitutes, and “massage” parlors for those brave enough to venture out of the house. Sex is seeping into the lives of more and more people. Clearly.

5. Addiction.

I’m aware that the notion of the existence of sex addiction is a hotly debated issue. I happen to be on the side that says it is an addiction.

I’ve been working with couples affected by sex addiction for a couple of years now and I’m here to tell you, not only is it on the rise, the fallout is major.

Polyamory, open marriages, BDSM and affairs are being spoken about quite openly these days. As a culture, we are becoming tolerant of sexual ways of being that 50 or 60 short years ago would have been deemed verboten.

Of course, we all that know sexual forays of all kinds have gone on since the beginning of time (the Greeks and Romans, in particular, were known to be quite sexual) but not only has the internet made viewing porn more accessible, it’s made “hooking up” within reach to just about anyone with a computer (or smart phone, or tablet). It’s no longer just part of the underworld.

My Conclusion

I believe we’ve arrived at a tipping point with sex and sexuality where we need to take a look at what we thought was “normal” and acceptable, and see if that still makes sense. I am a proponent of questioning monogamy, not because I endorse open marriages or polyamory, but because illicit affairs have become rampant and I see far too many people being hurt by them. We live longer and we have many more choices than ever before. To remain in our trance-like comfort of believing that marriage will protect us from being cheated on is nothing more than magical thinking. To sit back and wait to see what unfolds is irresponsible.

Sex is not a big deal. It’s a huge deal.

The first step in addressing any problem (and by problem, I really mean to say addiction) is acknowledging that it’s out of control.

I think it’s time.

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